Did AMC just shoot itself in the foot?

The VOD wars had kicked off long before the COVID-19 global lockdowns started, but the lockdowns are accelerating change in a lot of businesses. In the wake of the lockdown, there are no movie theaters anymore, so NBC Universal decided to stream Trolls World Tour. It generated US$100 million in revenue, and prompted AMC Theaters (the largest cinema circuit in the world) to retaliate and threaten not to play any Universal films. Now, cinema is still a large part of the movie pie (a record $42.2 billion in 2019), but that number is deceiving. First, the record. Global box office sales have grown from $23.1 billion in 2005 to $42.2 billion in 2019, a CAGR of 4.4%. But if you look at 2015–2019, it’s only 1.54%, which is exactly the same as the average US CPI over that same period — which essentially means growth has been completely flat since 2015 in real dollars. Meanwhile, home/mobile spending increased 14% to $58.8 billion in the one year from 2018 to 2019. Cinemas will likely always be around — there’s nothing quite like the big screen — but this particular tack of retaliation from AMC seems a bit like shooting itself in the foot.

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